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What is RSS?

RSS stands for Really Simply Syndication. RSS is a document format electronic publishers use to distribute lists of articles along with their title, description, (and even photos and other data), which link back to the original content on their website.

By distributing RSS feeds of their data, publishers can reach a larger audience and get more traffic to their website.

RSS uses an XML, (eXtensible Markup Language), format which is very easy to create and distribute. Like HTML, RSS news feeds use a nested pair tag scheme.

Example RSS Markup

<?xml version="1.0"?>
<rss version="2.0">
<channel>
<title>Example Pet News - Blog Feed</title>
<link>http://www.example.com/page1.html</link>
<description>A little info about our pet news blog feed...</description>
<item>
     <title>Stuff About Dogs</title>
     <link>http://www.example.com/dogs.html</link>
     <description>I want to tell you some stuff about dogs...</description>
</item>
<item>
     <title>Stuff About Cats</title>
     <link>http://www.example.com/cats.html</link>
     <description>I want to tell you some stuff about cats...</description>
</item>
</channel>
</rss>

Sometimes RSS files are created each time new content is added to a website, (or particular part of a website). Other times, the RSS feed is generated on-demand, when a particular URL is sent to the server or when the user performs a search. Aggregators, (such as framingham.net), gather these feeds using software that detects when the feed changes and then pull a fresh copy of the feed. In this way the load of distributing the feed is placed on the feed server rather than the publisher's server. All in all, RSS is one of the most efficient means for distributing nearly any type of constantly changing information. The diagram below shows the networking done between publishers, news aggregators and end users.

RSS syndication diagram
Diagram of RSS Syndication from a 2004 article, "What is RSS?", (diagram courtesy of and Copyright ©2004 Randy M. Harris, all rights reserved).

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